2015, and it looks like 2016 will be too, was a pretty good year for JRPG fans, especially those with a PS Vita. However, we only have a few writers following those games too incredibly closely, so some of the names you might expect to see here may be absent. However, it was still a pretty good year for handhelds. While we did see some ports over to handheld systems, we also saw some new IPs and new additions to franchises we know and love. These are the games we thought were the best to play while on the go.
Voting was pretty split here four our staff with the winner only coming away one vote ahead of second place and only two ahead of third. Here’s a reminder of what our nominees were (find out how we chose our nominees here):
- The Legend of Zelda: Triforce Heroes
- Stella Glow
- Xenoblade Chronicles 3D
- The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D
- Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate
- Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky Second Chapter
3rd Place – Xenoblade Chronicles 3D
By Robert Grosso
It really is impressive how Xenoblade Chronicles remains to be relevant. Five years after its initial release in Japan in 2010, Xenoblade Chronicles still resonates with people as an unforgettable, modern role-playing game. Naturally, like all Nintendo products, it should get a handheld release too.
Well, maybe not naturally, but Nintendo made sure the port of Xenoblade Chronicles 3D was as faithful as possible to the Wii counterpart, right down to the smooth framerate and vast scale of the game. The port, handled by Monster Games, is more than just a re-copy of Xenoblade Chronicles; the development actually re-created the whole game with a new graphics engine, quite literally rendering every single detail over again while optimizing the game to the new Nintendo 3DS technical specs.
One thing that people may not appreciate is that degree of craftsmanship going into the game. It was so massive that old 3DS systems couldn’t even play Xenoblade Chronicles 3D properly. So development for the title moved onto the New 3DS system, which was announced, and released, simultaneously with Xenoblade Chronicles 3D. Combine that with all the technical tricks Monster Games can muster, the game is an achievement in development and design at the very least.
Thankfully, the game is fantastic too. While it is essentially the same plot and mechanics as Xenoblade Chronicles on the Wii, that same plot and those gameplay mechanics are incredibly solid. Well-done voice acting complements a good role-playing system, from battle mechanics to the acclaimed social-link system, Xenoblade Chronicles was always firing on all cylinders when it was released in 2010. The new port also includes amiibo support and, of course, 3D capabilities that allow the game’s gorgeous backgrounds pop even further.
When it all said and done, Xenoblade Chronicles 3D is a well-made port and worth the praise it receives by rubbing shoulders with the best of them in 2015.
Runner Up – The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D
By Andrew Stretch
Earlier this year we saw the release of The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask for the 3DS. Released at the same time as the New 3DS, Majora’s Mask was a game that Zelda fans had been waiting for since the release of Ocarina of Time 3D in 2011. Follow the adventure of Link as he ends up in the strange world of Termina. The Skull Kid has stolen the Majora’s Mask from the Happy Masks Salesman and with it is going to destroy Termina and all of its residents, that is unless you can rescue the protectors of the land and stop him. On top of the graphical improvements from the original N64 release, Majora’s Mask 3DS also has a variety of other changes. From these the most noticeable differences are the Bombers Notebook and a more forgiving save system. The save system lends itself especially well to its new home on the 3DS.
Winner – Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate
By Andrew Stretch
Monster Hunter 4: Ultimate brought some great action to 3DSes this year. After missing out on the regular release that was a Japanese only title back in 2013, the Ultimate edition came to the West with even more features. Monster Hunter 4: Ultimate has you joining a caravan of other adventurers to seek out dangerous beasts and tons of loot. You can set out on your own to complete the campaign missions or you can spend your time in the guild hall taking on mission after mission. MH4U also gives you the option of teaming up with friends locally, or completely random people online. This entry in the series also added in two new types of weapons: the charge axe and the insect glaive. With a long campaign, plenty of weapons to craft, and over 140 levels of guild quests once you get stuck into this game, you’re going to be there for a while.
Readers’ Choice – Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate
Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate was one of the biggest releases on handhelds this year, especially with the many Monster Hunter fans ecstatic to see another title finally make its way to the West. It was jam packed full of content and certainly registered with both many members of our staff and our readers. Interestingly, readers had the same top three games in this category as well.
What games were overlooked? Do you agree with our choice?